The Myanmar regime’s executions of four democracy activists over the weekend has attracted a torrent of condemnation worldwide, highlighting the deteriorating human rights situation in the Southeast Asian country devastated by last year’s coup by the Myanmar military.
The military regime executed former National League for Democracy lawmaker Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw, veteran democracy activist Ko Jimmy, Ko Hla Myo Aung and Ko Aung Thura Zaw at Yangon’s Insein Prison, after accusing them of masterminding armed resistance against the regime and being involved in anti-junta activities.
Junta-controlled media reported the hangings on Monday. Relatives of the victims insisted that they were not informed that the executions would be taking place. Furthermore, the bodies of the victims were not released to the families for funerals.
Following the regime’s announcement about the executions, condemnation of the junta has poured in from around the world.
United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres strongly condemned the hangings, saying that they “mark a further deterioration of the already dire human rights environment in Myanmar.”
United States (US) Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said that the US condemns in the strongest terms the regime’s executions of pro-democracy activists, adding that the regime’s sham trials and the hangings were blatant attempts to extinguish democracy in Myanmar.
“These reprehensible acts of violence further exemplify the regime’s complete disregard for human rights and the rule of law,” he said.
The High Representative for Foreign Affairs for the European Union and the foreign ministers of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States issued a joint statement condemning the executions, and urged the regime to seek peace through dialogue and not through further violence.
In the joint statement the foreign ministers said: “The Myanmar military regime’s executions of pro-democracy and opposition leaders are reprehensible acts of violence that further exemplify the regime’s disregard for human rights and the rule of law.”
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a ten member bloc that includes Myanmar, said that it was “extremely troubled” by the executions as it has been trying to mediate peace in the country since last year.
ASEAN has proposed a peace plan, known as the Five-Point Consensus, for Myanmar that includes an immediate cessation of violence, but the junta has failed to honor the agreement.
Much to the ASEAN’s embarrassment, Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of Cambodia and the bloc’s current chair, personally asked coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to refrain from carrying out the death sentences handed to the four men.
Cambodia said on Monday in a statement issued by ASEAN that the implementation of the death sentences was “highly reprehensible”, as it created a setback to and presented a gross lack of will to support the effort, particularly by the ASEAN chair, in expediting progress on the implementation of the Five-Point Consensus.
Despite its failure to coax the regime into implementing the peace plan, Hun Sen said that ASEAN remained committed to the principles of the ASEAN Charter and the mandate of the Five-Point Consensus, while urging the regime to implement the Consensus.
Activists and right groups have long condemned ASEAN for sticking to the peace plan despite the lack of progress on it.
With the UN and ASEAN having made little headway on solving the Myanmar crisis, a group of former UN experts said that the UN and ASEAN must stop shamefully failing the Myanmar people and finally take concerted action against the junta as the executions were “further abhorrent acts of terror by a military junta desperately trying to ensure its own survival.”
Although the Myanmar crisis was brought to the UN last year, the UN Security Council is yet to even table a single resolution on the country, partly because of resistance from the regime’s allies China and Russia.
The Special Advisory Council for Myanmar’s (SAC-M) Marzuki Darusman said that the junta acted with total barbarism and that the executions were intended entirely to drive fear into the hearts of anyone opposing the regime.
“That is an act of terror by any UN definition,” he said.
Another SAC-M member Yanghee Lee said that it was long past time for a new approach to the Myanmar crisis.
“Min Aung Hlaing and his illegal barbaric junta are not people that can be reasoned with. The UN and ASEAN must exert as much pressure on the junta as possible to bring this crisis to an end,” she said.
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